Monday, February 17, 2020

A New Favorite Dress

As you may guess from the pictures, this is a dress I sewed sometime last year and it has taken me quite a while to find the time to write this post. In fact I sewed this dress sometime last summer, as it was one of my entries in our county fair!
  It quickly became one of Jemimah's favorite dresses! The ribbons, ruffles, embroidery and bows made this dress irresistible to my ruffle and ribbon loving daughter!
 The pattern is from the early 1980's. I was drawn by the details of this pattern. You don't often see patterns with this many options for embellishments. It was hard for me to choose which style to sew first! I look forward to sewing the option with the cream sleeves and apron at some point, maybe come fall.
 I decided to sew view three, as I was especially drawn to the ribbon inset. I had hoped to find a fabric that would coordinate with red ribbon, since it looked so lovely on the pattern envelope. But I was pleased with the navy calico I was able to find and the gold ribbons are a more subtle accent.
 My daughter was very pleased with the little bows on the wrists. They seemed to make the dress extra special to her.
The "V" shaping of the bodice gives this dress an old-fashioned fair tale look. My little girl looks a bit like Goldilocks whenever she wears this dress! : )

We were also extremely pleased when this dress won best of sewing at our county fair.

I hope you have all been enjoying a peaceful and cozy winter so far. Have you been working on any special projects?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Butternut Squash Soup and Bread Dressing Recipes

I found this turkey platter at a barn sale a few years back. I love the colors.
As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week I thought I would share two recipes that we have enjoyed lately. I think both recipes would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving meal.
We were blessed with a fine harvest of squash in our garden this year. Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite soups and up until this year I had yet to find a recipe that I really liked. Earlier this fall I found a recipe online that was very close to what I was looking for, but there were a few changes I made to make the recipe exactly what I thought butternut squash soup should taste like.
The recipe for the soup is fairly simple, but truly delicious!

Butternut Squash Soup

Cut one large butternut squash (about three pounds) in half. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil. Then bake in the oven at 425 degrees for about an hour or until tender. Once you have removed the squash from the oven allow it to cool, once cool remove the skin.
Saute one small onion in olive oil, once translucent add two cloves of minced garlic. After a minute add 2-4 cups of chicken broth. The amount of broth will depend upon the size of your squash and how thick you would like your soup to be. I typically add 4 cups. Allow the onions, garlic and broth to simmer until vegetables are tender.

Add squash in chunks to broth mixture. The next step is to puree the soup. For this step I use my blender, but you could you an immersion blender. If using a blender I recommend blending the soup in two batches so as not to over fill your blender.

Once your soup has reached the desired consistency return soup to sauce pan and add two tablespoons of maple syrup and two tablespoons of butter. You can add some salt and pepper to taste as well.
Miranda is my supper time companion every night. She loves to sit in the window beside me and patiently wait for a little treat. Surprisingly enough Miranda even likes butternut squash soup! She is a unique cat.
Adam's favorite Thanksgiving dish is bread dressing. I realize the picture of dressing doesn't look all that appetizing, but I snapped a picture before baking the dressing. I knew that once it was baked I wouldn't have time to take a picture. : )

 Bread Dressing

1/2 cup butter
3 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
14-16 cups bread cubes (I used sourdough and Italian bread that was slightly stale)
2-3 tsp. sage
1 tsp. salt*
1/2 tsp. pepper
3-4 cups broth (enough to moisten the bread)

Saute onions and celery in butter. Add broth, simmer until onions and celery are tender. Toss sage, salt and pepper with bread cubes. Add broth mixture to bread cubes. If necessary you can add additional broth if bread cubes are still too dry. At this point I usually have Adam taste test in case I need any extra salt or sage.
*I would recommend starting with 1/2 tsp. of salt and then adding more if needed. Sometimes the broth can be too salty and this can create a dressing that is too salty.

Bake in a well buttered 9x13" baking pan at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until crispy and golden.

Another recipe I make each Thanksgiving, and pretty much every holiday, is coleslaw. I shared this recipe a couple of years ago and thought I would add a link for those who may have missed that post.
Starting today I am offering 10% off all of the items in my Etsy shop. The sale runs through December 3rd. If you are looking for a Christmas present for a friend or family member please consider taking a look at the items I am offering.
I hope you all enjoy a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving! Is there a special family favorite recipe you plan to prepare this year?

"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." Psalm 100

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Homemade Grape Juice

Over the years we enjoyed purchasing locally made grape juice. If you have never tried freshly made grape juice you are truly missing out. : ) The store bought grape juice cannot even begin to compare with the delicious flavor found in fresh grape juice.

We have friends that make grape juice each year. Canning homemade grape juice has been something that my mom and I have wanted to try for many years now. This year we finally purchased a steam juicer so we could make our own grape juice and we are so glad that we did!

We were inspired when a neighbor invited us to pick grapes at his home. Adam and I picked a bushel and were able to produce nearly 14 quarts of grape juice from that bushel using the steam juicer.

We purchased our juicer from a local Mennonite grocery store. We found the steam juicer very easy to use and I am sure we will be making a variety of juices next year.
Adam describes the steam juicer as a triple boiler. You fill the top pan with grapes, the middle pan catches the juice from the top pan and the bottom pan is filled with water to create the steam. The top pan looks like a colander as it is filled with holes. The middle pan looks much like an angel food cake pan as it has a hole in the center which allows the steam to pass through to the top pan. It is quite a clever design and works great.
 Since we had the steam juicer and found that making the grape juice was fairly easy we decided we needed to find a source for more grapes. After looking on-line I found a few different vineyards that offered u-pick grapes. The prices were a lot less than I had expected. We figured that each quart of homemade grape juice cost less than a dollar to make. Plus homemade grape juice is much thicker than store bought, water can be added to home canned grape juice, stretching it even farther. Visiting the vineyard was a real treat! It was truly a beautiful place.
 I am so excited and grateful to have home canned grape juice in the pantry for the winter ahead.

"Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil." Joel 2:23-24
 P.S. The pictures of the grapes and vineyard were taken by Adam. : )

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Baby Chicks and Flowers

 Earlier this month we added seven little hens to our flock. We lost two of our older hens this summer and had only three left. It was depressing to imagine how cold and lonely winter would be with only three hens - but we thought it was too late in the season to purchase baby chicks. 

Much to our surprise Adam discovered that our local Tractor Supply was selling baby chicks earlier this month. What surprised us even more was the selection they had available. Back when we purchase our original seven hens they only had Isa Brown pullets available.
 This time however they had several breeds to choose from, in fact it was little hard to decide, so Adam picked out the seven little beauties we brought home.

Adam chose two Barred Rocks, two Brahmas, two Plymouth Blue Rocks and one Silver Laced Wyandotte. The little cutie in the picture above is one of the Plymouth Blue Rocks. Adam claimed both Blue Plymouth Rocks and named them Callie and Iola after the Hardy Boys' girlfriends. : )
 They are all adorable and such fun to watch. Jemimah is thrilled with the baby chicks. The white Brahmas are her babies. She has been hoping to train them to ride in her bicycle basket.
 Miranda has found the baby chicks quite fascinating. When they were tiny we kept them in a box on the porch with a screen over the top. Miranda watched them all day long! The picture above is of Miranda watching them out of the kitchen window.
 Each August I anticipate the first blossom from my Rose of Sharon bushes.  I love to see each variety blossom. We have three different pinks, a white and a lavender.
 I think the color of this Rose of Sharon is especially pretty.
The cows across the road have been fun to watch all summer. There is nothing quite like waking up to the sound of cows mooing. This year the farmer has had a bull penned up, separate from the other cows. The bull does not moo, I'm not sure what to call the noise, but it sounds a lot like a fog horn on a ship. Thankfully he is quiet most of the time, but when he does sound off, we all have to chuckle over the absurd sound.

"The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works." Psalm 145:9

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jam, Zucchini Bread and A Doily

 Zucchinis are one of my favorite vegetables! They are incredibly versatile, just yesterday I was commenting to my mom how many ways I have incorporated zucchini into our meals. Last night we enjoyed a supper of zucchini pancakes, corn on the cob, tomatoes and cucumbers- all from our garden, and for dessert zucchini brownies. It is such a blessing, especially since our first few gardens at our home were complete failures

In the picture above I had made a savory cheddar cheese zucchini bread and double chocolate zucchini bread. When I make the double chocolate zucchini bread I substitute the 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/3 cup honey, making it a little healthier. My daughter, niece and nephew all refer to the double chocolate zucchini bread as chocolate cake. It truly is a delicious recipe.
 Another recipe I tried for the first time this year is Peach Maple Jam. Adam made maple syrup this spring. Much of it was boiled over an open fire and it has a marvelous flavor. It was fun to find a jam recipe that could use some of Adam's syrup. The flavor of the maple syrup and vanilla combined with peaches is unique and absolutely delightful.
 Recently I finished crocheting the doily pictured above. It was a fun project and the design is one of the prettiest I have seen in quite a while. I love the unique shape. It looks perfect on my kitchen table under our oil lamp. The pattern I used can be purchased here.
 This was our first year to plant sweet corn. Jemimah loves corn and was extremely excited to plant corn with her papa this spring. She monitored her corn daily and compared her corn's growth with the corn in surrounding fields. You can imagine how thrilled she was to eat the first ears of corn from our garden. : ) We have been eating corn a few times each week for the past couple weeks. Jemimah has been very pleased to pick the corn for supper and then husk it. I love to see her carrying the freshly husked ears of corn in her apron skirt. 

We are already planning to plant more corn next year in hopes of having enough to freeze or can.
Right now I am collecting up tomatoes with plans to make pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce.

Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe? Or a favorite jam recipe?

"Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands: Sing forth the honor of his name: make his praise glorious" Psalm 66:1-2

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

August Days and Thimble Summer

On the left peaches from a kind neighbor and on the right tomatoes from our garden! I am hoping to make salsa tomorrow.

 "While the men worked on the barn Garnet and her mother had their hands full with the house and garden; for now the garden was yielding in all its abundance. It was hard to keep up with it. When you had finished picking all the beans it was time to pick yellow squashes, shaped like hunting horns. And when you had got through with squash it was time for the beans again. And then you had to hurry, hurry and gather the bursting ripe tomatoes from the heavy vines, for canning. Then there were beets and carrots to be attended to; and after that it was time for the beans again.

"Beans never know when to stop" said Garnet's mother in annoyance.

Corn was picked every day; and that was pleasant , walking in the rustling good-smelling aisles between the stalks. And the watermelons! Big solid green ones that Garnet thumped with a finger to see if they sounded ripe. And every now and then she dropped one on purpose and it would burst open, cold as a glacier and rosy red. Then she would walk homeward dripping and drooling, spitting out black seeds and feeling fine.

And Canning! Oh those weeks of harvesting and peeling and preparing apples, peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers, plums and beans. All day the kitchen smelled like heaven and was filled with steam.The stove was covered with kettles and vats, and upside down on the windowsill stood processions of mason jars full of bright color and hot to the touch."

From Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright 1938
Jemimah and I recently finished reading Thimble Summer together. It is hard to say who enjoyed it more. I love stories that are set in rural areas and especially those that take place in the 1930's. Thimble Summer is a simple story that spans a summer in the life of a young mid-western farm girl. There were many incidents in the story that made us laugh and a couple that surprised Jemimah. She would occasionally feel it necessary to scold the main character, Garnet, as she would get herself into some rather wild predicaments. 

I especially enjoyed the descriptions of home and family throughout the book. The selection I shared above seemed to capture the essence of August. The smells, the warmth, the abundance. 
My kitchen has been once again taken over by my canner and an assortment of beautiful vegetables from our garden. We feel truly blessed by the produce we have picked each day.

Today I made dill relish. I have made dill pickles each year but never relish. Adam loves relish and made a special request that I would find a relish recipe and give it a try. This was the ideal year since we seem to have more cucumbers than we know what to do with. This is the recipe I used. I can't say how it tastes, it needs to set for two weeks before using. But we are looking forward to sampling some then!

Don't forget, it is always best to do your canning in a pretty apron. It makes the experience more enjoyable, and keeps your clothes clean. : ) This particular apron is sewn from one of my favorite calicos, so be sure to stop by my shop if you find yourself in need of a new apron.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Chicago Crunch Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

When I was a teenager my great grandma gave me one of her most special possessions: her cookbook. I was so blessed and happy that she would give me her cookbook, since I was one of many great grandchildren. But grandma knew that I loved to cook and that I would cherish her collection of recipes.

The recipes grandma saved are quite varied, some were cut out of the newspaper or a magazine. Other recipes are written in grandma's own handwriting or another family member's handwritten recipe that they had shared with her.

Over the years I have enjoyed being able to flip through grandma's cookbook and see her dear handwriting. I have also enjoyed trying many of the old-fashioned recipes she saved. Some of our favorites have been her Chili Sauce, Cherry Crumb Cake and Dairy Delight, yum! : )
 The recipe that I most closely associate with my great grandma is Chicago Crunch Chocolate Chip Cookies. Among all of grandma's family her best loved recipe was definitely "Chicago Crunchers"! It seems as though every time we stopped by her home grandma was in the process of making a batch of Chicago Crunchers or had just made a batch. Most of the time we would leave her house with a tin of her Chicago Crunchers to take home with us.

Even after all of these years I still think of grandma every time I make a batch. I remember watching her make them when I was growing up, it was her way of showing her love for all of us.

Chicago Crunch Chocolate Chip Cookie

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp.salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine (I use butter in place of the margarine)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp. milk 
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
1 cup corn flakes
1 cup quick oats
1 package 12 oz. chocolate chips

Sift flour, baking soda and salt.
Beat margarine, butter brown sugar and granulated sugar, egg, milk and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour mixture alternately with oil until well mixed. Stir in corn flakes, oats and chocolate chips.
Drop by heaping teaspoon fulls onto ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

If you decide to try this recipe I hope you will enjoy it as much as we have over the years. You never know - it may become a family tradition for you as well.

 I also wanted to mention that I listed a couple of new aprons today and I am running a midsummer sale. All of the items in my shop are 10% off plus if you spend $50 or more you will receive free shipping. If you are interested please be sure to visit my shop. The sale will run through next Saturday July 20th.